Author Topic: Amphibians on Earth  (Read 859 times)

Offline Shy Violet

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Amphibians on Earth
« on: June 01, 2017, 08:18:09 AM »
Amphibians evolved from fish about 400 million years ago, when the amount of dry land on Earth increased greatly due to climatic conditions at the time. Certain fish, (possibly Tiktaalik Rosea) adapted to these changing conditions by gradually developing limbs to crawl and lungs to breathe with. Such organisms came to be known as amphibians, a name that means “double life”.  Many of the species that developed during this period no longer exist. The groups of amphibians that survived to the present day can be traced back no further than 200 million years.

The word amphibian itself comes from the Greek amphibios, which means “living both in water and on land”, which refers to their distinctive feature as the only vertebrate group that generally possess an aquatic phase of life (larvae), and a terrestrial one (adulthood). This renders amphibian populations sensitive to alterations in both environments, leaving them in a particularly challenging ecological situation.

Because amphibians are highly sensitive to changes in their surrounding environmental conditions (i.e. temperature, humidity, water and soil pH, for example) they are considered indicator species. Given this, healthy amphibian populations are usually a sign of healthy ecosystems. On the other hand, as their populations and diversity decrease, so do the number of healthy ecosystems around the world, possibly signaling the loss of numerous other living species. In such a manner, amphibians give a rough idea of the local and global health of the planet.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which is the most comprehensive information source on the status of wild species and their links to livelihoods, and who publish  the “Red list”, which assesses the extinction risk of species, in the last 25 years, more than 120 species of amphibians have disappeared. The planet's amphibian species are becoming extinct at a thousand times higher rate than normal, according to the study by more than 500 scientists from over 60 nations that have contributed to the Global Amphibian Assessment: http://www.natureserve.org/conservation-tools/projects/global-amphibian-assessment

This is an alarming circumstance, especially considering that modern amphibians have been on the planet for more than 200 million years, even surviving the dinosaur extinction and all subsequent natural global climate changes, including extreme droughts and ice ages. However, the current rate of amphibian extinctions might be due to a particular sensitivity to anthropogenic environmental disturbances.

Scientists have theorized that this alarming decline in the numbers of amphibians and amphibian species around the world is due to a number of factors: pollution of freshwater ecosystems, the destruction of amphibian habitat by ever-spreading human populations, and possibly increased ultra-violet radiation due to ozone depletion. 

With regard to the toad in question on this forum, Incilius Alvarius, it is a large toad in the family Bufonidae that can grow up to 7.5 inches long and live up to five to 15 years in the wild. Its presence on the planet dates back to just prior to the formation of the Sonoran Desert roughly 8-10 million years ago to which its natural habitat almost exclusively coincides with. In the regions it is native to, Incilius Alvarius is protected by state and federal law.

None of the states in which Incilius Alvarius is, or was native to legally allows a person to remove the toad from the state. In New Mexico and Arizona it is unlawful to capture, collect, intentionally kill or injure, posses, propagate, sell or transport this amphibian. In Sonora, in order to capture or collect any amphibian, a federal permit is required.

Based on the IUCN’s Red List assessment of the status of this toad species conducted back in 2004, Incilius Alvarius is categorized as a “least concern” species, based on its “wide distribution, tolerance of a degree of habitat modification, presumed large population and because it’s unlikely to be declining fast enough to qualify for listing in a more threatened category.”

Historically the Incilius Alvarius toad was found from southeast California, eastward across much of southern Arizona into extreme southwestern New Mexico, and southward through much of Sonora to northwestern Sinaloa.

No authors have noted declines of the Incilius Alvarius Toad in Sonora, however, in 2014 Yaqui Tribal members said the species had declined in the vicinity of Vicam and Bácum, and surveys at various sites in that region by retired biologist J.C. Rorabaugh and others in July 2014 failed to detect the species, although other anurans expected in the area were commonly encountered. 

This called the attention of a field biologist who has taken an interest to develop proactive measures to prevent the decimation of their populations. The species is monitored yearly in Arizona and no declines have been noted, but biologists have explained that the human impact would not be noticed immediately, but rather a few years down the road, when it may be too late to take proactive corrective action.

Since 2012, Incilius Alvarius has been undergoing ever-increasing human environmental pressure. The popularity of the naturally derived compound from this unique toad, its venom, has grown as the result of particular individuals who, although with good intentions to help people, have overexposed this once obscure little desert dweller in an exponentially global way, thus placing the toad populations in a precarious situation.

It is important to note that none of the states in which Incilius Alvarius is endemic to, legally allows a person to remove the toad from the state. In New Mexico and Arizona it is unlawful to sell or transport this amphibian across state and international borders. In Sonora, although you need a federal permit in order to capture, manipulate, or collect the venom, laws are a bit more malleable in Mexico than they are in the United States, which has resulted in vulnerable populations of toads south of the border.

The Mexican state of Sonora has seen an influx of foreign visitors over the past five years who, after learning about the unique feature of this toad through media outlets such as the Vice episode that documented the use of the toad-derived psychoactive compound, have decided to take it upon themselves to journey to Sonora, to places like Magdalena, which are easily accessed after crossing the border from Arizona into Mexico to get their own supply of the toxin.

With the continued popularity of this underground little creature partly through the release of films such as Episode 1 of the series titled “Shamans of the Global Village”, which features details such as how to identify the toad, where to find the toad and how to extract the venom, the threat posed for the continued existence of this toad is real and significant.

With more and more people each year going to the Sonoran desert from faraway places such as Australia and Spain to collect venom to take back home and, in some instances, actually removing the toads from their natural habitat, the viability of the species is being put at risk, and with it the health of the overall ecosystem in the Sonoran desert.

Even though Incilius Alvarius has a large reproductive capacity with large toads laying clutches of up to 8000 eggs each, their livelihood is challenged when the uninformed see it as a harmless action to remove the toad from its habitat. According to amphibian experts, when big specimens are removed from their habitat, the reproductive capacity of the species can be significantly compromised, and indeed lead to the decimation of an entire population in a given area.

Although amphibians are very susceptible to changes in their environment, they are also incredibly resilient. I think that while it may be fair to say that no harm has been done, we can take proactive action and develop a deeper attitude of reverence, gratitude and respect for the toads by simply leaving them alone. I feel it would be wise of all practitioners to stick to using 5-MeO-DMT in its synthesized form for their healing work, which is so valuable on this beautiful planet of ours.

As someone who is very interested in seeing clinical outcomes as well as mechanism of action studies conducted with this molecule, I fear that the wave of neoshamanism that has been fostering irresponsible and unsustainable use of this finite natural resource could effectively shut down our chance to get scientific work off the ground.

I would like to make a call to action to make sure we act out of the wisdom of our hearts, and not the nearsightedness of our mind. That we move forward with discernment and congruence, and not operating out of our blind spots.

At the rate things are going globally for all amphibians and locally for Incilius Alvarius, it would be wise for us to assume the worst case scenario and foresee that the species may well be decimated in the wild over the next decade if we keep up what we are currently doing as a community and continue to tolerate and turn a blind eye to the types of abuse going on – with the toads themselves, with unethical practices, with the incongruence of our actions, with the profit model that is commercializing this sacred gift of the Earth. 

Incilius Alvarius has been around the planet for 10 million years, can you imagine how devastating it would be if in a matter of 10, 20 or 30 years, humans came to wipe out what nature has so elegantly crafted in such a beautiful and delicate balance?

The dissonance between what people say and what they do is concerning. Please, let’s all wake up and get it right. What a wondrous opportunity this could be to rise above ignorance, greed, and stubbornness. If it wasn’t so tragic, it would be almost comical to think that while pursuing enlightenment and healing for the world, we are compromising the viability of the little peaceful creature we claim to love so.  What a powerful lesson the toad is trying to instill in us, don’t you think? It is almost like a cosmic test… let’s not fail this, let’s rise, use our deepest human wisdom and transcend the pattern of anthropocentrism and narcissistic tendencies that have characterized our species.

“One touch of nature makes the whole world kin”.
-William Shakespeare
« Last Edit: June 02, 2017, 02:15:20 AM by Flux »

Offline Shy Violet

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Re: Amphibians on Earth
« Reply #1 on: June 01, 2017, 11:27:29 AM »
This quote applies... the expression "right relationship" really resonates with this particular topic.
« Last Edit: June 01, 2017, 11:29:43 AM by Shy Violet »

Offline HumbleVoyager

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Re: Amphibians on Earth
« Reply #2 on: June 02, 2017, 05:35:54 AM »
Thank you for sharing this incredible article Shy Violet. It is most definitely worthy of publication in other outlets as well...perhaps Psychedelic Times would be interested? Erowid would be another one I would consider submitting to.

I think this article speaks to a very important issue that needs to be considered as human beings continue to develop their relationship to this incredibly special molecule.

Thank you thank you thank you.

Blessings.

Offline Flux

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Re: Amphibians on Earth
« Reply #3 on: June 02, 2017, 06:15:45 AM »
Thanks Shy Violet,

This is the prefect post for seeding the Ethics and Ecology section

It also reminded me of a discussion recently about Bufo Alvarius not 'needing' to produce 5-MeO because of the bio-availability of other bufotoxins it has to potentially deter predators and that it produces 5-MeO as a result of living underground for 9 months of the year and the relationship between 5-MeO and light.
 
This was idea was supported via way of testaments to darkness retreats invoking 5-MeO like states and the (somewhat speculative?) cascade relationship between melanin, melatonin, tryptophan, serotonin, pinoline and 5-MeO-DMT in the human brain.

Well the crux of idea was; that the Australian Cane Toad (Bufo Marinus) being so closely related to Bufo Alvarius could, if environmentally necessitated to hibernate underground... also begin to produce 5-MeO-DMT.

An exciting if not wild idea :)

thoughts most welcome :)
 

Offline HumbleVoyager

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Re: Amphibians on Earth
« Reply #4 on: June 02, 2017, 08:12:16 AM »
While interesting, I think regardless it would be important for us as humans to look elsewhere for sources of medicine.

Offline Rising Spirit

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Re: Amphibians on Earth
« Reply #5 on: June 04, 2017, 07:03:44 PM »
Wow, this is such an informative, well written post!  And I too, am concerned about the toads themselves.  Can plant sources provide adequate amounts of 5-MeO?  What about yopo, Anadenanthera peregrina, cebil seeds? 
There is no self to which I cling, for I am one with everything.

Offline Rising Spirit

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Re: Amphibians on Earth
« Reply #6 on: June 04, 2017, 07:06:58 PM »
There is no self to which I cling, for I am one with everything.

Offline Shy Violet

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Re: Amphibians on Earth
« Reply #7 on: June 08, 2017, 06:17:36 AM »
Sorry for being such a turtle in following up with the comments to this post. Thank you Humble Voyager, for your kind words of encouragement and the suggestion to share elsewhere. I had not thought of it, but it may not be a bad idea. I will reach out to Erowid first and take it from there. Thank you kindly.

Flux, that is a wild and fascinating question regarding Bufo Marinus you pose. I checked in with my biologist friend and he explained that Bufo Marinus does hibernate like the I. Alvarius toad does though, so the notion of darkness having something to do with the I. Alvarius toad's ability to produce 5-MeO-DMT may not be a viable explanation. It might be more likely to be the case that in order for the large toad species to have access to a wide variety of critters to eat in the vast landscape of the Sonoran desert, it had to develop a way to metabolize (and transmute?) other animal's toxins. It is well known that the I. Alvarius toads will eat almost any prey they can subdue and ingest, including those with defensive stinging capabilities. Almost all toads are generalists. In my conversations with the biologist he went on to explain that if the unique qualities of I. Alvarius are related to its diet it must have a unique way of metabolizing certain items and/or possibly combined with how it deals with/metabolizes certain items in dormancy. It’s all speculation at this point.

In my personal life and professional work and endeavors I am guided by a quote by Theodosius Dobzhansky that states:  “Nothing in biology makes sense, except in the light of evolution”.

So for me, it begs the question… what is the evolutionary advantage that producing 5-MeO-DMT confers to the I. Alvarius toad? To which much to my surprise my biologist friend answered: “Is there an advantage or is it a coincidence”?

As you stated in your comment, I. Alvarius may “not need” to include 5-MeO-DMT in its venom for protection… is it possible here we may have an example of interspecies “altruistic behavior”? Another wild thought to ponder… All speculation.

In any case, i agree with Humble Voyager that it is better to find sources of medicine elsewhere and leave the toads alone. With I. Alvarius being endemic to the Sonoran desert, we need to strive to prevent localized extirpation events from taking place as that would severely impact the species as a whole and we will have missed the point.



Offline HumbleVoyager

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Re: Amphibians on Earth
« Reply #8 on: June 08, 2017, 06:36:23 PM »
Quote
So for me, it begs the question… what is the evolutionary advantage that producing 5-MeO-DMT confers to the I. Alvarius toad? To which much to my surprise my biologist friend answered: “Is there an advantage or is it a coincidence”?

As you stated in your comment, I. Alvarius may “not need” to include 5-MeO-DMT in its venom for protection… is it possible here we may have an example of interspecies “altruistic behavior”? Another wild thought to ponder… All speculation.

Shy Violet, in response to this part I am inclined to think that 5-MeO-DMT is a byproduct of the same metabolic process that produces bufotenin (5-HO-DMT). We know that both of these compounds produce increased heart rates in humans and in high enough doses can cause animals to forget to breathe and/or cause myocardial infarction and thus die (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bufotenin#Uptake_and_elimination). It is possible that the venom was partially developed as a natural selection process that came from a need to incapacitate predators in order to get away. It is very possible that the enzymes that produce these compounds appeared around the same time on the evolutionary timeline.

I would also argue that these types of toxins are actually evolutionarily advantageous because they are such simple compounds that are ubiquitous in nature. Serotonin, being the basic building block of both bufotenin and 5-MeO-DMT, is a neurotransmitter found in just about all living organisms, INCLUDING single-celled organisms (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serotonin#Comparative_biology_and_evolution). That being said, this would be an obvious choice for Mother Nature as a means to ward off predators. The mechanisms to create these compounds are known to Nature in a variety of ways. Human beings produce it, several plants produce it (albeit in trace amounts), and so it would make sense that it would find its way into venom.

When these toads were originally evolving in the Sonoran desert, I highly doubt that humans were anywhere near their list of potential predators. So their venom was meant for smaller animals such as coyotes. We know that the toad venom is deadly to dogs, so they succeeded in their evolutionary mission: to survive and ward off potential predators. As such, the levels of toxins in the venom would not need to be sufficient to kill a human being. It is true that the venom will create a very unpleasant reaction in humans if squirted in the mucous membrane of the eye, swallowed, or otherwise ingested without the typical vaporization techniques used today. But I don't think that the dose would be deadly to a healthy human being.

As such, I would suggest that the I. Alvarius toad evolved to produce potent, short-acting neurochemicals which were similar to neurotransmitters present in all species of plant and animal life in order to ward off predators. Psychoactive compounds represent keys to the locks of neural receptors, and what better deterrent than a key which fits the locks on all animals?

It is not until recent times of modern man that one constituent compound, 5-MeO-DMT has become valuable. To the untrained mind, the experience would be absolutely terrifying and would essentially result in the same end game as the venom did with other animals. However, mankind has an interesting brain. Though it first may have an experience that sends it reeling in terror, it is often overcome by curiosity and returns again and again. See for example nicotine, which was developed by plants as a natural insecticide. Human beings may have initially been poisoned by it but then later on sought out its effects and found that it was quite useful as a stimulant, relaxant, and otherwise dopaminergic agent.

A similar thing has happened here with 5-MeO-DMT. Its effects were initially described as terrifying and dissociating. People lacked the language to describe the potentially profound effects this molecule was having on their psyche. However, as time went on mankind continued to return to this experience because there was something to be gained. And now we are in a stage of human-molecule relationship where the information being gained could potentially unify the species as an agent for natural survival. That is a big leap, but with the overwhelming number of reports suggesting that there IS an objective reality which, in turn, suggests that all consciousness is one being experiencing itself subjectively, then the leap seems smaller.

For me, the mystery lies not in why the molecule was put in the toad. That can easily be explained by evolution and biology. For me the mystery lies in WHY this molecule is so potent and why it produces the experience that it does in human beings. I am also curious about what this molecule has to offer the human organism in terms of evolutionary potential. Will it be able to be used in a productive manner? Or will it merely be an ineffable buzz that produces long soliloquys by bards that have nothing more to contribute to the human action. Will the human mind be able to integrate the concepts elicited by such a molecule into discernible change?

Only time will tell. We (humans) have claimed to have found the Holy Grail many times. I would argue that we will never find it. The Holy Grail is essentially what the Quest for the Holy Grail elicits in the human system. The Holy Grail is compassion, empathy, fortitude, vulnerability, and the transmutation of all shadow within the human vessel. We will only find what we seek when we surrender to ourselves.

These molecules are incredible agents of change. They can shift a perception wildly. But I would argue that they are worthless on their own. They do not necessitate change. A man can smoke toad venom or eat LSD every day or every week for years and STILL lack empathy for other beings. He can still be a fragile ego, always on the lookout for those who might threaten his sense of self. He can still manipulate others, he can still do what he will to serve the body-mind that runs his existence. It is not until a human being takes responsibility for its own operating system and makes the change in behavior, however hard it may be, that evolution can occur.

And that process is very slow indeed.
« Last Edit: June 08, 2017, 09:53:23 PM by HumbleVoyager »

Offline Shy Violet

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Re: Amphibians on Earth
« Reply #9 on: June 15, 2017, 11:07:19 AM »
Dearest Humble Voyager,

Thank you for sparking this discussion, you argue some very good points; I support your excellent observations. It is not surprising that amphibians produce the pharmacological cocktail they do inside their granular glands.

The generalized occurrence of granular glands in the anurans (amphibians without tails) suggests that they represent a primitive character in the order. Again, if we think about it in terms of geological time and adaptive function, amphibians evolved from fish 400 million years ago, and gradually Tiktaalik Roseae (see “Your inner fish” by Neil Shubin) replaced fins with rays reminiscent of fingers to be able to prop itself out of the water, developed spiracles as the foundation for a respiratory system to breathe air that eventually gave way to lungs. Scales, protective cutaneous structures found in the fish and in the earliest amphibians, became unnecessary in the terrestrial environment. What amphibians developed instead of scales were the glands that have played the role of protection of the organism against a number of adverse factors in their new terrestrial environment. (See “Cutaneous granular glands and amphibian venoms” by R.C. Toledo and C. Jared).

These glands, in so far as they allowed these animals to spend longer periods of time on land rather than water, represented an evolutionary advance and a nifty adaptive strategy for dealing with whatever terrestrial adversary they were likely to encounter in a most efficient manner. Being barely adapted to land life and in transition mode from water to land critters, early amphibians were at the whim of anything that might have come across them on the shores of the Earth at the end of the Devonian period, so to exude and if necessary forcibly excrete transdermally the bufogenins and bufotoxins inside their glands most definitely conferred to them a protective factor and advantage in the midst of their extreme vulnerability as they adapted to their new ecological niche.

It is interesting to note that amphibians use their toxins for protection and NOT for attack. According to G.G. Habermehl, in his book “Venomous animals and their toxins”, until recently it was commonly held that these secretions are used only against predators. However, his research showed that is not the case, as he observed that these toxins primarily protect against microorganisms. The skin of amphibians would be the perfect substrate for bacteria and fungi in the new terrestrial environment since it must be continuously moist to allow for the exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide, so it makes perfect sense that these vertebrates took it upon themselves to generate a whole gamut of bioactive chemicals to protect their viability and livelihood.

Amphibian secretions may contain cardiotoxic, neurotoxic, haemotoxic, myotoxic, hallucinogenic, hypotensive, hypertensive, antibiotic and anesthetic components. You better believe the early amphibians devised the perfect pharmacopeia to match any adversary microorganism that could prevent it from successfully adapting to the ecological niche it may have newly found itself in.

“I would also argue that these types of toxins are actually evolutionarily advantageous because they are such simple compounds that are ubiquitous in nature.” … This is a beautifully elegant point you make Humble Voyager, I agree with you fully. I think it is safe to say that serotonin is a signaling molecule, and given that nature follows the principle of parsimony, it makes sense that rather than invent new compounds, with altogether different molecular structures, it would rather just tweak an atom or two to create analogues and slight variations of other compounds that are already being manufactured and don’t take too much effort to produce, but nevertheless meet the organism's signaling needs and otherwise.

So, I agree with you that 5-MeO-DMT is a byproduct of the same metabolic process that produces bufotenine (5-HO-DMT). It is still interesting to ponder what adaptive function may the fact that the Incilius Alvarius toad, a species with a very geographically restricted area of distribution, possesses the enzyme 5-hydroxyindole-O-Methyl-transferase that converts 5-HO-DMT into 5-MeO-DMT in the parotid and tibial glands, whereas other amphibians don’t. What about the very unique environment, the harsh conditions of the Sonoran desert region made it evolutionary advantageous for this amphibian to take that extra biochemical step of expressing this particular enzyme that renders it able to produce enormous quantities of 5-MeO-DMT? There has to be a logical biological advantageous reason for it, wouldn’t you think?

Vittorio Erspamer, an Italian pharmacologist whose research led to the isolation, identification, synthesis and pharmacological study of more than sixty new chemical compounds, including serotonin itself and octopamine (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vittorio_Erspamer ) did some research with the Incilius Alvarius toad. In his 1976 paper titled “5-Methoxy-and 5-hydroxyindoles in the skin of Bufo Alvarius”, he states that Serotonin (5-HT), which is the parent substance of all indolealkylamines present in the Incilius Alvarius skin is present only in traces. This means, he explains, that 5-HT once formed is immediately submitted to the combined action of N-methyl-transferase and 5-hydroxy-O-methyl-transferace; the final result being the formation and accumulation of enormous amounts of 5-MeO-DMT.

The amphibians that made it to our time date back 200 million years. That is a lot of time for nature to craft and refine its concoction, you would think that perhaps other amphibian species, particularly the Bufo Marinus toad for example as mentioned in the original comment by Flux, that also has these large glands and produces bufotenine, would have started also expressing this enzyme 5-hydroxyindole-O-Methyl-transferase and consequently producing 5-MeO-DMT as well. Why not? Why only Incilius Alvarius? 5-MeO-DMT does not necessarily contribute towards the capacity of the toad to ward off predators, (we know it only works if vaporized) it is the bufogenins and other bufotoxins that successfully scare away skunks, raccoons and anything else that tries to mess with them. (See Defensive Behavior and Effects of Toxins in Bufo Alvarius by Joe A. Hanson and James L. Vial).


Two things make the Incilius Alvarius toad unique... it is only found in the Sonoran desert region and it is the only bufo species that expresses this particular enzyme 5-hydroxyindole-O-Methyl-transferase … so I feel its fair to argue that somehow those two elements have something to do with the fact that this toad is a generous 5-MeO-DMT making machine, whereas others are not.

That humans were nowhere near being around when the Incilius Alvarius species was evolving in the Sonoran desert is a great point that clearly invalidates the speculative idea I had expressed regarding the possibility of “interspecies altruistic behavior”. I just thought it would be fun to entertain that possibility from a merely philosophical standpoint.

“Psychoactive compounds represent keys to the locks of neural receptors, and what better deterrent than a key which fits the locks on all animals? “…. Absolutely, another beautiful example of nature’s inclination for sticking to the principle of parsimony to get things done.

“It is not until recent times of modern man that one constituent compound, 5-MeO-DMT has become valuable. To the untrained mind, the experience would be absolutely terrifying and would essentially result in the same end game as the venom did with other animals. However, mankind has an interesting brain.”

This is an important point you make, and one that warrants further exploration as this lines up with the cultural phenomenon we are currently experiencing with the sudden (past 5 years) explosive popularity of toad venom as an “ancestral” practice. But let’s save that discussion for another post and for now keep this on the biological, rather than the cultural track we have been discussing.

I could not agree more with you when you say that mankind has an interesting brain. I think the reason why we have the type of experience we have when these simple molecules bind to our receptors is because of the nature of our own hardware and our capacity for consciousness, symmetry, reason, etc. Our typical mammalian-primate perceptual system is enhanced with an elaborate conceptual system added on top and intertwined like everything else in our triune brain.
Which again, brings me back to the idea of “Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny” and presents me with the invitation to philosophize around the idea of how does our current phylogeny may recapitulate our future ontogeny?  "Anything that can evolve may eventually evolve"…

It is conceptually challenging for us to think in terms of geological time, given our average lifespan is what? 80 years if lucky? We are nevertheless made of the same star stuff that everything else that exists in the universe is and everything is ever-evolving. We don’t tend to think about these things mainly because we are born into a culturally and socially constructed world that has been handed down to us through the institutions of ritual, symbol and myth that indoctrinate us into a particularly narrow religious/political/economical worldview.

If we go back to the idea of thinking of simple, ubiquitous compounds throughout nature as signaling molecules, it makes me curious so as to inquire what might nature be trying to signal back to itself by making these systems available? I guess I write this as an animist that sees nature itself as a dynamic energetic flow that is ever-fluctuating, expanding and exploring new realms of being and self-awareness. 

“And now we are in a stage of human-molecule relationship where the information being gained could potentially unify the species as an agent for natural survival” ….  What a bold statement to make, I am with you. I think we have a shot, let’s not miss the point by way of our individual and collective blindspots.
 
Whatever the reason why 5-MeO-DMT may be present in the Incilius Alvarius toad, and however the mechanism for developing the human perceptual system that has endowed us with the ability to tap into these “altered states of awareness” evolved, here we are, cognizant and aware that there is a simple molecule present throughout the plant and animal kingdom that happens to fit our receptor locks in ways that lead us  to “unity consciousness states” that may result in the opportunity for enhanced self-awareness, which ultimately places the responsibility for positive change in each and every one of us. What are we going to do with this?

“These molecules are incredible agents of change. They can shift a perception wildly. But I would argue that they are worthless on their own.”

Yes, not only worthless, they are incredibly dangerous if used in a less than ideal situation. I feel that as we move along the trajectory we find ourselves in with the research being done to legitimize the use of these compounds, it is very important that we keep a level-headed approach and are careful with the claims we make about them. The last thing we need is people’s enthusiasm to make it sound like this is a panacea that can cure all ailments; that is simply not the case. The inner work required for personal transformation will never come from a molecule…the molecules are merely catalysts that kindly show us where our work lies, but then it is up to each individual’s agency and volition to actually do anything with the insight they may have been able to download from the experience.

Will the human mind be able to integrate the concepts elicited by such a molecule into discernible change?”

This is a very important question and one that the individuals at the forefront of utilizing this molecule both for scientific and therapeutic purposes ought to strive toward living a positive answer to by holding each other accountable, using the compounds responsibly and sustainably, being congruent, doing our own work, being humble and open for growth and learning. Keeping in check the profit model that seems to be emerging, being extra sensitive to our own blindspots and having the willingness to bring those blindspots into focus to work with.

“It is not until a human being takes responsibility for its own operating system and makes the change in behavior, however hard it may be, that evolution can occur. And that process is very slow indeed.”

I absolutely agree with you… and yes the process for taking responsibility of our own operating system and hardware is very slow indeed, but I do feel strongly that through concerted effort vested into practices like mindfulness, self-compassion, loving-kindness and through the responsible use of psychedelics as catalyzing agents for stabilizing long-term positive change,  we can initiate a process of self-directed neuroplasticity that may indeed help us over-write our primitive-mammalian brain and perhaps little by little add another layer to our triune brain, or at least, for the time being, little by little further exert an inhibiting executive top down control on our limbic emotional brain and our primitive reptilian brain so we may learn how to get out of, and stay out of “fight-flight” and figure out how to turn on the “play and engage” mode as we connect our neocortex in new and unprecedented ways.

Just a couple of days ago I was reading about this 40 year old genetic study in Russia where they were doing selective breeding for the behavioral trait of “tameness” among the silver fox. In just 40 years they were able to induce some powerful genetic changes, scientists report:

“As our breeding program has progressed, we have indeed observed changes in some of the animals’ neurochemical and neurohormonal mechanisms. For example, we have measured a steady drop in the hormone-producing activity of the foxes’ adrenal glands. Among several other roles in the body, the adrenal cortex comes into play when an animal has to adapt to stress. It releases hormones such as corticosteroids, which stimulate the body to extract energy from its reserves of fats and proteins. After 12 generations of selective breeding, the basal levels of corticosteroids in the blood plasma of our domesticated foxes had dropped to slightly more than half the level in a control group. After 28 to 30 generations of selection, the level had halved again. The adrenal cortex in our foxes also responds less sharply when the foxes are subjected to emotional stress. Selection has even affected the neurochemistry of our foxes’ brains. Changes have taken place in the serotonin system, thought to be the leading mediator inhibiting animals’ aggressive behavior. Compared with a control group, the brains of our domesticated foxes contain higher levels of serotonin; of its major metabolite, 5-oxyindolacetic acid; and of tryptophan hydroxylase, the key enzyme of serotonin synthesis. Serotonin, like other neurotransmitters, is critically involved in shaping an animal’s development from its earliest stages.”

So, while it is not viable to think that humans are going to start a selective breeding program, we can nevertheless use our higher cognition to try to find ways to affect our neurochemistry and neurohormones in ways that can lead to a similar outcome as the one found with the foxes. If we could find a way to downregulate our corticosteroid output and increase our serotonin production and its enzymes over the next 40 years…we may be able to experience a most powerful example of what Thomas Kuhn referred to as a “paradigm shift”.

Xzen

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Re: Amphibians on Earth
« Reply #10 on: June 19, 2017, 07:00:13 AM »
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Because amphibians are highly sensitive to changes in their surrounding environmental conditions .. [they] give a rough idea of the local and global health of the planet.

It seems to me the evocative toad is fast becoming a significant indicator of humanities maturation - or lack thereof. We, as the 'dominant' species on Gaia, clearly have an obligation to take a sober look @ how we are affecting the planet & to correct our course significantly.

A notorious practitioner, in tears of overwhelm once cried; "The end of the toad is the end of the world!" With aggravating environmental & political events rife upon the planet, & a rising spiritual naivety among humanity, it seems reasonable to entertain the notion that we are well & truly in the throes of a kind of Armageddon; the oft prophecised 'battle between good & evil' that plays out before the 'end of time' or 'Day of Judgement'.

If it is this dire, what might it take for us to right ourselves with existence so that a zero point quantum celebration may occur, rather than a looming disaster? The sticking point here, as you so eloquently express in your post, Shy Violet, is that those with good intention may still make significant mistakes, & this in turn requires deep humility & authenticity to rectify.

The impact of the neoshamanic wave has me contemplating the saying that 'hell is full of good will or desires' - 'L'enfer est plein de bonnes volontés ou désirs'. I know all too well the cataclysmic consequence of good intention gone awry, & first hand am responsible for choices born of ignorant enthusiasm, that have turned out to be more harm than help - in dangerously shocking measure. Such disparity both @ home & abroad must be remedied both personally & collectively if we are to justify our involvement (dare I say entanglement) in the entheogenic emergence.

Perhaps if we find a way to release the bond of shame & judgement that comes with such volatile terrain, we may feel more comfortable to self reflect, & in turn inspire some very raw & real dialogue within this community. I am intimately interested in this approach, & though not always on point here, am willing to apply myself.

Ultimately my attention is on good relations & beneficial outcome for the collective, with Gaia & all inhabitants being a significant & obviously essential component of this unified approach. It's my belief that to address the external environment effectively we must be equally inclusive of our attention to the internal landscape; & that it is imperative we establish a voluntarily self correcting community of both practical & profound proportion.

In simple terms, if I make a mistake, we have an understanding that you (the community) know how to productively offer me the tools of insight required for me to willingly allow for correction so that I may be in harmony once more with collective consensus. Perhaps non violent communication is worthy of mention here, as I certainly know its a skill I wish to improve upon in order to move forward productively.

In relation to the notion of a collective consensus, I would love to see the development of a world wide Entheogenic Ethics & Ecology Ethos. Perhaps this is a far reaching vision, however i propose that even if we miss the moon, we're sure to land in the stars.


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.. biologists have explained that the human impact would not be noticed immediately, but rather a few years down the road, when it may be too late to take proactive corrective action.

Yes. We must apply foresight, & history starkly suggests that we may be causing more harm than we realise (think Maria Sabina & the "little ones", & more recently still - the ayahuasca culture that has placed extreme demand & strain on environment & is riddled with events of questionable ethical action). This is alarming as it seems mass consensus relies on disaster as a catalyst to incite transformation; rather than upon the insightful & lucid steering of a new course that is established via the collective guidance of intelligence & wisdom.

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The Mexican state of Sonora has seen an influx of foreign visitors over the past five years who, after learning about the unique feature of this toad through media outlets such as the Vice episode that documented the use of the toad-derived psychoactive compound, have decided to take it upon themselves to journey to Sonora, to places like Magdalena, which are easily accessed after crossing the border from Arizona into Mexico to get their own supply of the toxin.

&

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With the continued popularity of this underground little creature partly through the release of films such as Episode 1 of the series titled “Shamans of the Global Village”, which features details such as how to identify the toad, where to find the toad and how to extract the venom, the threat posed for the continued existence of this toad is real and significant.

I have been privy to various actions, choices, perspectives, individuals & teams associated with 5-MeO-DMT, & all people involved seem to be wanting a similar outcome. Yet despite common goals, it sometimes feels as though I have witnessed & experienced more dissonance than harmony in the 5 community. Not necessarily always apparent on the surface, in the undercurrent this rip is undeniably present.

Perhaps this is all an expression of my own inner discord, & to respond to this I am inclined to practice ho'oponopono - the art of seeing all in self & offering forgiveness where grievances lay. I assure you this has been a challenge for me, & is a healing I truly take to heart.

Much of what has occurred in community near & far has me concerned, & I once again include myself in this weaving. I invite us to discuss such matters, perceived glitches & misdirection with a consideration that ultimately has no one feeling exposed & isolated; & yet has all involved willingly participating in transparency, refinement & correction - collectively & personally.

With right relations comes the potential for profound global benefit. I believe we intrinsically know & aspire to this level of required commitment to harmony for the sake of the whole (& holy), so thank you for bringing such a pertinent issue to the fore.


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With more and more people each year going to the Sonoran desert from faraway places such as Australia and Spain to collect venom to take back home and, in some instances, actually removing the toads from their natural habitat, the viability of the species is being put at risk, and with it the health of the overall ecosystem in the Sonoran desert.

This is something I feel we all need to look @. Self correction & community re-direction are clearly required here. There are several movements in place that are designed to support the study of Incilius alvarius in it's endemic environment. Intention seems focused on determining our current impact on creature, culture & context ... so lets see if we can indeed learn & in turn be of benefit here.

I invite the consideration of collaboration among the different groups who are aiming for the same essential goal of greater awareness, education & the development of sustainable practices. Even though separate bodies might remain in seemingly different functions, the work can potentially be done together with greater efficiency. This level of cooperation may appear to be idealism, yet so does an inspiring dose of 5, imo.

Our need to act correctly, succinctly & with all encompassing compassion seems more vital with this cultural wave than in any other time. The fragility of the situation is apparent, & it is time for us to truly begin new relations, for the sake of new outcomes. I have learned this the hard way - stubborn as I can be, & pray others need not encounter the same obstacles I have had, in order to grow.

Cooperation seems key to me, & I sincerely pray we find a way to settle into demonstrable unity - swiftly.


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As someone who is very interested in seeing clinical outcomes as well as mechanism of action studies conducted with this molecule, I fear that the wave of neoshamanism that has been fostering irresponsible and unsustainable use of this finite natural resource could effectively shut down our chance to get scientific work off the ground.

I concur that there is a fostering of 'irresponsible and unsustainable' practice, & hope others feel the impact of your message. I also agree that the way forward includes the responsible merging of spirit, science & study.


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The dissonance between what people say and what they do is concerning. Please, let’s all wake up and get it right. What a wondrous opportunity this could be to rise above ignorance, greed, and stubbornness.

Yes, a call to walk the talk. What do we stand for?

 
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At the rate things are going globally for all amphibians and locally for Incilius Alvarius, it would be wise for us to assume the worst case scenario and foresee that the species may well be decimated in the wild over the next decade if we keep up what we are currently doing as a community and continue to tolerate and turn a blind eye to the types of abuse going on – with the toads themselves, with unethical practices, with the incongruence of our actions, with the profit model that is commercializing this sacred gift of the Earth.

Cutting to the core. Brilliant.


Shy Violet, thank you for initiating what I feel is our most essential thread on the forum thus far.


Namaskar
~*~ Xzen



« Last Edit: June 19, 2017, 09:30:43 AM by Xzen »

Offline Bancopuma

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Re: Amphibians on Earth
« Reply #11 on: June 27, 2017, 07:07:02 AM »
An excellent and important article Shy Violet, thank you for sharing.

It also reminded me of a discussion recently about Bufo Alvarius not 'needing' to produce 5-MeO because of the bio-availability of other bufotoxins it has to potentially deter predators and that it produces 5-MeO as a result of living underground for 9 months of the year and the relationship between 5-MeO and light.
 
This was idea was supported via way of testaments to darkness retreats invoking 5-MeO like states and the (somewhat speculative?) cascade relationship between melanin, melatonin, tryptophan, serotonin, pinoline and 5-MeO-DMT in the human brain.

Well the crux of idea was; that the Australian Cane Toad (Bufo Marinus) being so closely related to Bufo Alvarius could, if environmentally necessitated to hibernate underground... also begin to produce 5-MeO-DMT.

An exciting if not wild idea :)

thoughts most welcome :)

Just FYI (I do like your exciting and wild idea by the way), I've been in touch with someone who has his own pet captive bred Bufo alvarius toads...I appreciate toad keeping is rightfully discouraged, but captive bred toads at least are not impacting wild populations, and this person goes to great lengths to ensure that his toads are well looked after. (I've also been in touch with breeders here in the UK, who claims these toads do breed readily in captivity). While in the wild they will hibernate underground for much of the year, this is not the case in captivity, and it seems more out of necessity in the wild setting than anything else. This person uses toad secretion in ceremonies, for people's first 5-MeO experience only (he then goes onto use synthetic 5-MeO for subsequent sessions).

In his own words, based on his experience keeping toads:

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It’s a myth that toads in captivity give less secretion, low potency secretion or need to hibernate to give it all. Same myth as the licking toads’ thing...

I have synthetic 5-MeO on hand, so I can say that their secretion (if not milked more than every 8 weeks and if they are fed enough) is VERY potent, I’d say more than the average of 20% it’s more the max of 25% of overall material. A full dose (15mgs) is usually achieved with 70mgs toad secretion only.

That darkness-biochemical cascade theory subscribed to by some Taoist groups and others is mighty interesting indeed, but at this point in time is pure speculation...this is an area in dire need of some more research. Lindsey Vona's account of a two week darkness retreat makes for mighty interesting reading from a 5-MeO perspective though, and some of her experiences sound very reminiscent of 5-MeO experiences:

"At one point in my meditation, my head opened and flooded with light. I watched and felt this quiet bliss and gladness take over and noticed that my body became pure vibration."

"I was absorbed into this light, and this light became the entirety of space around me until I was only this giant, radiant light-filled void. I was real and home again and bigger than a trillion of our suns."

"I was a gigantic bigger-than-all-concept-of-universe radiant unending shimmering ball of light emanating perfect compassion forever without cause."

"Even my experiences of perceiving the maya, of perceiving emptiness and suchness throughout my whole “life as Lindsey” as a spiritual seeker could not come close to this total absorption into self-remembering perfection of total...er...uh...beyond words and description annihilation into truth-light." ...etc.

http://www.hopedance.org/home/awakenings/2051-lindsey-vona

...to me, that description of "annihilation into truth-light" just sounds like textbook 5-MeO! It makes me very intrigued about one day experiencing a darkness retreat.
« Last Edit: June 27, 2017, 07:23:13 AM by Bancopuma »

Offline Keepertoad

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Re: Amphibians on Earth
« Reply #12 on: January 04, 2018, 04:46:54 PM »
Thanks Shy Violet,

This is the prefect post for seeding the Ethics and Ecology section

It also reminded me of a discussion recently about Bufo Alvarius not 'needing' to produce 5-MeO because of the bio-availability of other bufotoxins it has to potentially deter predators and that it produces 5-MeO as a result of living underground for 9 months of the year and the relationship between 5-MeO and light.
 
This was idea was supported via way of testaments to darkness retreats invoking 5-MeO like states and the (somewhat speculative?) cascade relationship between melanin, melatonin, tryptophan, serotonin, pinoline and 5-MeO-DMT in the human brain.

Well the crux of idea was; that the Australian Cane Toad (Bufo Marinus) being so closely related to Bufo Alvarius could, if environmentally necessitated to hibernate underground... also begin to produce 5-MeO-DMT.

An exciting if not wild idea :)

thoughts most welcome :)


I have heard that hibernation is not required for 5meo production